Investing in BRAC

The Baltimore Sun

Despite flagging revenues and a dismal financial outlook, Maryland is moving ahead with plans to support development related to the influx of thousands of military jobs here from the base relocation and closure process. State officials have their priorities straight. In providing $5 million to help finance improvements in five newly created enterprise zones, Maryland can direct growth where it wants it, promote mass transit use and capitalize on a major federal investment.

The five locations selected by the state as BRAC zones fit the objectives of smart growth: redeveloping industrial sites, building high-density areas and providing transit access. With as many as 60,000 jobs relocating here, both government and private, newcomers to Maryland should be encouraged to use public transportation. Four locations - Laurel, Odenton, Frederick, and near Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County - are near MARC commuter or subway lines and military bases expected to expand. The fifth is a sprawling waterfront site in south Baltimore where 2,000 homes and a hotel-retail complex are planned and demolition is under way. State officials also want to explore a new commuter rail station there.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the state's point person on BRAC, says Maryland hopes to leverage about $150 million in development through its $5 million investment in infrastructure projects in the BRAC enterprise zones. Local governments also are expected to contribute to the projects. Baltimore will borrow $160 million to help finance the construction of roads and other infrastructure for the Westport project, loans it will repay with property taxes generated from the development.

But the real bonus here is the military and contracting jobs that are relocating to Maryland. They are predominantly in the technology and engineering fields, the kinds of jobs that fit Maryland's work force - educated and professional. Though many won't arrive until 2011, the jobs should provide opportunities for new graduates and help keep the state's unemployment rate low.

And in this economy, as the country's jobless rate increases, Maryland's commitment to and investment in BRAC can't help but pay off.

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